When you hear “worker’s comp,” you probably think about being injured at work. However, in certain cases, diseases can qualify as well.
An “occupational disease” is a disease that comes directly from the job that you are doing or have done, and is not something that you could have been exposed to outside of the job. If you are a construction worker and you catch the flu from a coworker, it does not count as an occupational disease because you could have also caught the flu from a neighbor or someone at the grocery store. However, if you are a nurse and you catch C. diff. from treating a patient, it could count as an occupational disease as C.diff. is uncommon outside of healthcare settings and not something you would encounter every day.
Examples of occupational diseases may include respiratory diseases for firefighters; certain cancers for firefighters or state employees who encounter toxic chemicals known to cause cancer as part of their work; and pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung and found in coal miners. This list is not definitive and is meant as an example of some of the types of occupational diseases; just because a disease is or is not on this list does not mean it would count as an occupational disease for a specific person.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits for Occupational Diseases
The benefits for occupational diseases are the same as benefits for being injured at work. If you’re able to have treatment and then return to work as normal, you can get Temporary Partial Disability or Temporary Total Disability as applicable. If you’re not able to return to work in the same way due to the disease, you can qualify for Permanent Partial Disability or Permanent Total Disability as applicable. The Lifetime Medical Benefits and Death Benefits apply just like they do for someone with an injury.
To get workers’ comp for occupational diseases, you do the same steps you do for an injury at work: tell your job, tell a doctor, and then call HammondTownsend. However, it can be more confusing because a disease is not as clear-cut as an injury. You know the exact day that you were injured, but in many cases diseases don’t start on an exact day, or if you are infected on a specific day you may not know it. Instead, you should follow those steps as soon as you hear from a doctor that the disease was caused by your job. If you haven’t heard this from a doctor but you suspect your disease was caused by conditions at work, you need to report it within five years of last being exposed to those conditions.
Call HammondTownsend at 888-580-9048 for a free consultation. We can help you through the process of being diagnosed with an occupational disease and getting the benefits you deserve.